Editor-at-large Alexi Duggins will try anything… So you threw him in at the deep end with Out to Swim
London is great and the rest of the country is rubbish. Just look at synchronised swimming. In most of the UK, groups are for women only. The slightest hint of testicle is grounds for exclusion. Normally, my only hope of taking part would be a ludicrous attempt at recreating Mrs Doubtfire in a bikini.
But at Out to Swim, Londoners can combine rhythm, bathing and ownership of a penis. About 90 percent of their weekly beginners’ classe are male. No one bats an eyelid at hairy dudes trying to be as elegant as swans. So open-minded are these guys that as I arrive, they offer me a pair of sequinned Speedos.
They’re even accepting of malcoordination. ‘Let’s torpedo scull!’ says a classmate, lying back, extending hands above head and wiggling them so he shoots across the surface like a missile. I, however, flap my hands like I’m shooing a cat and do what should be called ‘the Titanic scull’. ‘Nearly,’ says the female instructor. ‘Just tense your stomach muscles to stop you sinking.’ See how broad-minded they are? They even treat me like someone with stomach muscles.
Then it’s time to learn a routine. The music begins – it’s from ‘Chicago’. Some might say that guys twirling about to a big musical number was camp. Here, though, it’s normal. We wiggle, we spin and then we torpedo scull.
‘Point your toes! It’s more beautiful!’ urges a member. Again, not a word many men use, but here, it seems right. I leave having enjoyably swum my heart out with some very open-minded lads.
Very open-minded. When I get home, I check the website and read: ‘Out to Swim is a… club for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans peopleand their friends.’ Yet they’re recruiting regardless of sexuality. You know which reader suggested this experience? One of the group.
Would a mainly gay group recruit straight people in the rest of the UK? A land so ghettoised that you can’t take your mangarden synchro swimming? Doubt it. But that’s London’s beauty. Differences don’t matter here. We understand that we’re all bound together by common human desires. And sometimes, that desire is the need for Speedos.
Lessons are every Sunday from 5.45-7.45pm at Queen Mother Sports Centre, 223 Vauxhall Bridge Rd, SW1V 1EL. £45 for four classes.